Ouri. Photo by Maiko Rodrig
Given the ethereal vocals that dotted her releases the past few years, it was a little surprising, and even jarring, to discover that We Share Our Blood marks just the first time the vocals on an Ouri release are her own.
The 25-year-old producer, multi-instrumentalist and now singer says her latest EP was the right moment to step out of the shadows.
“I think when I was doing the record I was in a zone of such low self-esteem — I had no confidence at all,” Ouri recalls. “And so I thought this was the best moment to rebuild from zero and I could just try anything. It felt like it was now or never, that I couldn’t postpone it forever. That might sound a little intense, but it really was perfect timing.”
The recent undergrad in composition at Concordia also credits her friends for pushing her to finally sing lead on a record, as well as a particularly inspiring Indian music class.
“The class was in the classical tradition, where any voice has a meaning or purpose and doesn’t have to sound a certain way. After that I felt like I had to accept my way of singing and not be ashamed of it.”
In more ways than one, the beat-driven and richly textured We Share Our Blood represents an emergence from anonymity. When Ourielle Auvé first started the Ouri project in 2015, remaining in the background was by design. She was a producer first and foremost as she honed her skills. Eventually, she added live DJ and performer to her resume — the latter as an initial member of local artist CRi’s live act. At a furious pace she’s released new music — album Superficial and a collaborative EP with Mind Bath in 2017 — and videos that further placed her in the forefront.
As a result, she’s now getting more noticed, signing with American label Ghostly International outside of Canada and joining a booking agency.
“At the beginning, it was me trying to be anonymous and fitting into a man’s world,” she says. “I didn’t want people to tell me my music sounded feminine — I just wanted it to be about the music. That changed and eventually I wanted to embrace my identity in this project, and this is how it’s been since then.”
Ouri also feels less constrained when it comes to being both a producer and singer. While she enjoys collaborating with vocalists and will continue to do so, why not step in front of the mic if the song calls for it?
“I feel like everyone has their place and I have my set of skills. I may not be able to do everything, but I can do some things so why should I not do them? I can be free and use whatever I want to express myself.”
Her music training began with piano, harp and cello, which proved invaluable when it came to learning to make beats. She moved to Montreal from Paris at 15, with the idea of making music and being part of an open-minded and creative underground scene.
She started hanging out with producers and soon wanted to pursue that path.
“I would see all the drums and structures in Ableton Live that my friends were doing and I would get so frustrated because I couldn’t understand it. So I downloaded it and played for months. I couldn’t stop,” she says.
Her formal music education found its way into her new work, since it helped her turn abstract musical ideas into something tangible.
“Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating because there are so many rules about what you should and shouldn’t do,” she says. “It can be a bit limiting, but in the end you need to unlearn what you’ve learned and re-apply it.”
Last month, Ouri and her crew had the opportunity to play together at a Red Bull showcase. The group — Odile Myrtil, CRi, Victor Bongiovanni, Mind Bath, Shay Lia, Forever, TiKA and Toronto’s Casey MQ — doesn’t have a formal title and it’s impossible to peg them with one music style, but Red Bull tried nonetheless, going with the name 463 Carats and describing it as an emerging R&B scene in Montreal.
It’s pretty clear We Share Our Blood isn’t an R&B release, and even if she’s doing modern production work and singing, Ouri isn’t an R&B artist.
“I feel like R&B is used as a title whenever there are people of colour on the stage,” she says. “Our band for the Red Bull show (Paradis Artificiel) wasn’t R&B at all, but I feel because Odile is mixed (race) and I am mixed as well, R&B was the term they went with.
“Maybe titles like that are necessary because people need a short resumé of what they’re about to listen to before they listen to it, but I feel like sometimes I was being referred to as R&B even when I wasn’t singing and just doing production and experimental stuff.”
If anything, Ouri appears destined to stand out and defy categorization. One example: her Canadian label is Bonsound offshoot and primarily hip hop-based Make It Rain.
“I feel like it doesn’t make total sense,” she explains of the union. “But at the same time I listen to so much hip hop and I hear it in my music more than ever before. I’m so happy to be part of the Make It Rain family, but I also realize I’m not so close to what the other artists on the label do.” ■
Ouri performs at Espace SAT (1201 St-Laurent) on Saturday, Oct. 13, 10 p.m., $21.50